Claude Garamont's predecessors and contemporaries

Claude Garamont's fame should not be allowed to completely overshadow the work of his predecessors and contemporaries. Garamont was not the only talented punch-cutter of his era, and he is not solely responsible for modernising French typography.

Between 1520 and 1531, the printer Simon de Colines, who had married Henri I Estienne's widow, cut punches for some twenty roman and italic fonts that were directly inspired by those of Aldus Manutius. Colines was the leading figure in the first generation of Parisian punch-cutters, and it was likely him who trained the next generation, that of Augereau and Garamont. Throughout the 1520s, fonts created by Simon de Colines began to replace the older-style faces that Parisian printers persisted in using.

Garamont is not the only figure to have modernised French typography.

Antoine Augereau, who was trained by Colines, probably set up as an punch-cutter in the early 1530s. Augereau met a tragic end: accused of heresy in the wake of the Affair of the Placards,he was burnt at the stake in December 1534. Despite his brief career, he created several fonts that echoed the design of the Aldine romans – as Colines had done, but Augereau's typefaces had a much more delicate line. Guillaume Le Bé's Memorandum de Guillaume Le Bé (1643) states that Claude Garamont trained with Antoine Augereau.

Two other punch-cutters who were exact contemporaries of Claude Garamont were among the finest craftsmen of their era. Pierre Haultin, who worked in Paris from 1546 to 1550, made his career primarily in Lyon and Geneva – having fled there, like many of his fellow Protestants, to avoid repression. Haultin was a brilliant punch-cutter who put his talents at the service of his faith: he created a series of very small but highly readable fonts, which were used to publish small editions of the Geneva Bible. These fonts were so successful that they were even used in Italy in the Vatican's printing presses!

Robert Granjon, is famous for his invention of Civilité, a typeface that imitated the cursive gothic handwriting of the period. But his greatest success was probably the creation of some thirty italic fonts that are among the handsomest typefaces of the Renaissance.

Display timeline